Redistricting: DOJ Shouldn't Have OK'ed Northern Va. Map

Redistricting: DOJ Shouldn't Have OK'ed Northern Va. Map

Story tools

A A AResize



EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier this month, New America Media and ethnic media in the Washington. D.C., area convened to discuss a redistricting map in Prince William County, Virginia, that would limit the voting power of people of color, who now make up more than 50 percent of residents. The U.S. Department of Justice has just approved that map, over the objections of civil rights groups.

Every ten years, after the U.S. Census, new political boundaries are drawn inside each state to adjust for changes in population. At the county level, the revised boundaries, encompassing our communities and neighborhoods, are almost always drawn by elected officials.

Those officials make decisions that intimately affect our day-to-day lives on issues such as education, housing, land-use planning, taxes, transportation and even immigration.

In the case of Prince William County, Virginia, the proposed redistricting map drawn by the Board of County Supervisors has just been approved by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), to give the county time to prepared for an August 23 primary election. We, the ethnic media serving the Washington, D.C., region, would like to express our deep disappointment with this decision.

For the Nepalese-American immigrant who still feels invisible, the Korean American whose issues are rarely given voice, or the Vietnamese American still learning the mechanics of participatory democracy, Prince William County’s proposed map violates Constitutional principles and offends human dignity. We believe the DOJ should have rejected the map submitted by Prince William supervisors and instead considered alternative maps, such as the one proposed by Virginia New Majority.

We understand that the redistricting process is inherently political, in that maps determining voting districts are drawn by those in power. Incumbency, however, should not overrule or subvert what redistricting really represents: a means to provide voters with an opportunity to elect representatives who best reflect community interests and needs. That opportunity is imperiled and denied when communities are split in such a way as to perpetuate electoral dominance by one group, party or race—a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s intent and principle of one person, one vote.

As a result of the 2010 Census, we know that the Latino population in Prince William County has surged. The redistricting map submitted by the county to the DOJ appears to have the goal of minimizing the Latino vote. To impose blatantly artificial boundaries on any ethnic group in order to perpetuate a state of second-class citizenship for the next 10 years is unconscionable.

The African-American community in Prince William County has lived this history and knows it well. And while, as Virginians and regardless of our origins, we are proud of a state that, in 1989, elected the first African-American governor in the United States since Reconstruction, we note that Prince William County has never had a person of color serve as supervisor. Thus, while newer residents may be alarmed that the county redistricting map is an attempt to turn back the clock, the county’s history tells us that the clock has never moved forward.

Some historians are noting that this is the first time that the DOJ under a Democratic administration is ruling on redistricting proposals under the VRA. Some will see this as proof that the Prince William County map is nonpartisan, since it was approved by the DOJ even though the Board of County Supervisors is dominated by Republicans. However, we are not speaking as Republicans, Independents, or Democrats, but as Americans. As members of and advocates for our communities, we believe the DOJ has failed to uphold the Voting Rights Act. That failure will have dire consequences for our communities for the next 10 years and beyond..

To read more about this topic, see: Virginia's War of Maps: Immigrant Surge Challenges All-White Leadership